Humpback whale, entangled in net, saved with a pocket knife

This amazing video shows the rescue of a humpback whale, entangled in a gill net, freed by snorkelers and sailors armed only pocket knives. It took place in the Sea of Cortez in 2011.

This is human empathy at its finest. After it was freed, the whale, as you’ll see, breached 40 times, accompanying the spectacle with fin and tail slaps. The narrator wonders, as do I, if this is some display of joy—or even of gratitude.

The caption:

Michael Fishbach narrates his encounter with a humpback whale entangled in a fishing net. Gershon Cohen and he have founded The Great Whale Conservancy to protect whales. is their website, or go to gwc’s facebook page, and join them in helping to save these magnificent beings.

h/t: Su



  1. Barry Lyons
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 1:05 pm | Permalink


  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    The whale must’ve been breaching in joy. Who knows how long he or she was trapped and it probably felt good to be loose!

  3. Grania Spingies
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    It’s not hard to imagine that whales experience the sorts of emotions that other higher mammals do. If apes and dogs have them, then why not whales?

    • Alan Jenkins
      Posted April 13, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Maybe it should be our default position for all animals unless demonstrated otherwise.

      Just something I’ve been wondering.

      • Alan Jenkins
        Posted April 13, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        wondering “about”.

      • Diane G.
        Posted April 13, 2014 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        Oh, you’re not alone; at least on this forum. I know I speak for Ben Goren as well, for one. I’ve never understood the traditional null assumptions.

        • darrelle
          Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:57 am | Permalink

          The concept of human specialness clinging due to cultural inertia?

          It is puzzling that humans are so good at empathizing, and at the same time so willing to rationalize obvious cognitive behaviors similar to our own exhibited by other animals as not being “real,” like ours. That does seem to be changing though, at least in the sciences.

  4. lanceleuven
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, tears streaming right now. How wonderful.

    See what us humans can do when we respect our animal cousins?!

  5. Posted April 13, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I saw this video when it first was posted on YouTube and several times since – it still has the same, wonderful effect on me!

    • Posted April 13, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Oh, and I reckon it was a display of both joy and gratitude. Animals can and do show joy, and they can and do show gratitude.

  6. papalinton
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Makes it all the more wonderful when we now have a legal basis around which to protect these beautiful creatures after the international court win mounted by Australia against hunting on the Southern Ocean.

  7. Filippo
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Am reminded of ST:TNG “Encounter at Farpoint”

  8. Thanny
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Joy, certainly. Gratitude, I wouldn’t be so quick to allow. The boat was, after all, following the whale afterwards, so it’s not as if the whale hung around putting on a show.

  9. Posted April 13, 2014 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Spectacular and moving. Thanks.

  10. Diane G.
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Oh, boy, tears of joy here. That was profound; yay, humans!

  11. JBlilie
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    All divers who care about their life and health carry very sharp knives for this reason. Many serious river kayaers do too. You neve rknow what kind of garbage (or sweeper trees in rivers) you might encouter out there!

  12. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Even a rock-headed geologist like me can admit to being moved, from time to time.
    I’ve been caught in “gill net” – we call it monofilament net over here, and it’s extremely un-fun when you’ve got 2 air sets and a leg-knife and wrist-knife that include net-cutters.
    I’ll pass this on. Burn the damned stuff.

  13. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted April 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Incidentally, “Fishbach” … is that nominative determinism, or did he choose to de-clutter a specimen of the notoriously most-musical of the great whales?

  14. Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on A man and his brain.

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